The story behind Santa Cruz Avenue’s homemade brick icon
You’ve probably noticed the simple but sturdy-looking brick house that sits on Santa Cruz Avenue opposite St. Raymond Church. And you’d be right to assume there must be a story behind that house.
Lorenzo (Lawrence) Guglielmo began working as a bricklayer just nine years after he was born in a small village in northern Italy. He lived and worked for awhile just across the border in Chamonix, and before turning 21, had built a new house in his native village for his parents. Finishing this, he moved on to New York City doing construction work, then to Michigan to work in mines, and finally back to construction work in Chicago.
In 1945, he decided to move to California for his wife’s health. He had relatives living 0n the Peninsula and soon bought property in Menlo Park on Santa Cruz Avenue where he proceeded to build a brick house that he had designed himself. At the time there was a large pasture across the street, part of the McGinnis Estate, now the site of St. Raymond Church.
Lawrence first built a detached two-car garage where he and his wife lived while he worked on the house itself. The garage still has a bathroom although the kitchen has been dismantled. The house was finished in 1948, but his wife had died, so he didn’t move in until about a year later after marrying Margaret, a widow with two young daughters, Joan and Margie.
Lawrence worked for Person and Wik, a construction company in Burlingame. Among other projects, he worked on the construction of Menlo-Atherton High School and the old Safeway that was at Five Points in Redwood City. Closer to home, he built some brick planters (since removed) that were in the Menlo Park Presbyterian Church near the altar. He died in 1984 just shy of 93 years old; Margaret continued to live in the house until she died in the early ‘90s.
The house itself is reminiscent of many Chicago neighborhoods but unusual for Menlo Park. The walls of the house are reinforced brick. The original tile roof is still intact. The living area of the main floor is about 1400 square feet. A finished basement extends the length of the house, even under the front porch. While much of the interior has undergone modernization, the exterior remains almost exactly as constructed by Lawrence.
Note: Mary Andeen, Joan Cackler and Arnold Wilson contributed to this story. Photo courtesy of Arnold Wilson.